Monday, October 06, 2014

General Winter Waits at his Line of Departure

For those who had so much hope in the progress made over the summer in Ukraine, as fall shows up, the situation has not continued to move in our direction.

When the pro-Russian amateurs were getting their a55 handed to them, the Russians stepped up their game as this was no time for defeat. You have to give them credit; this slow roll hybrid war is working for them.

Notsomuch a blitzkrieg, but a kreepkrieg.

Just look at the map on the right; the professionals are taking over and getting results.

The pro-Russian forces have solidified their lines to a more defensible and logistically efficient arrangement. They have expanded their areas of control and access to a variety of supply lines. For the Ukrainians, mostly alone in this struggle, they are facing a very rough next nine months.

Why nine months? Simple; winter is coming. Winter does not play games in Ukraine and Russia.

Normally, one thinks of the impact of the cold on armies. The last to feel its fury was the Germans - a good account can be found here and here

That would be a good topic for discussion if this were a conventional conflict, but this isn't. No, this is something else.

Once Winter comes and the cold hits - we will see how accurate the Russian Center of Gravity analysis has been. The Ukrainian Strategic Center of Gravity (COG) is the support of the Ukrainian people for their government. A government's primary role is to support the people. Hunger and cold are very real and personal. If those in areas under pro-Russian control are warm and fed, while free-Ukraine is cold and hungry - spring could have a very different look.

One would think that the West - especially NATO nations - would see this and would do all they can to not weaken the Ukrainian COG. One would think;
Hungary has "indefinitely" cut off its supply of natural gas to Ukraine, a move that Kiev's state gas firm has described as "unexpected and unexplained."

Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency cites Hungary's gas operator, FGSZ Ltd., saying that the pipeline cutoff "was made to meet the growing domestic demand."

However, The Financial Times notes that the gas was shut off "days after the head of Russia's Gazprom monopoly visited Budapest." FGSZ's move comes three days after Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller met Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Budapest.
Natural gas from Hungary, Poland and Slovakia has become crucial to Kiev since Gazprom suspended gas supplies to Ukraine in June, months after Moscow's annexation of the Crimea, due to a payment dispute, officials said. The supply disruption is of particular concern because of Ukraine's cold winters and its heavy reliance on natural gas for central heating in homes and buildings.

The FT says: "Poland and Slovakia have reported reductions in their supplies from Russia in recent weeks, apparently aimed at limiting their ability to re-export to Ukraine."
Why? Follow the money.
Far-right parties are set to do well in next month’s elections to the European Parliament, a fact that has thrown a spotlight on their links with the Kremlin.

A recent study by the Budapest-based Political Capital Institute documents the support that far-right parties in the EU have given to Russian President Vladimir Putin, particularly throughout the Ukraine crisis.

These parties repeated the Kremlin’s line that it is the EU and the West, rather than Russia, which are provoking tension and fuelling violence in the Eastern European country.
Hungary’s Jobbik earlier this month (6 April) won over 20 percent in national elections making it the far-right party with the highest rate of popular support in Europe.

While some right-wing parties in Western Europe – such as France's National Front – refuse to build alliances with Jobbik, they are welcome guests in Moscow.

There have been rumours about Jobbik's financial ties with Russia in Hungary for years, but nothing has been proven. However, Jobbik politicians openly support the Kremlin, and believe that opening to the east and Russia is essential.

In an interview with The Voice of Russia in 2013, Jobbik leader Gabor Vona said: "I consider Russia as a country of key importance. Besides Turkey, I believe Russia is the other Eurasian power that could spearhead a real political, economic and cultural resistance against the Euro-Atlantic bloc.”
Which NATO nations are most susceptible to Russian money? Just look at the Corruption Perception Index. You invest money to get returns. Dividends are coming due.

This is not news to Ukrainians who are trying to diversify their supplies of natural gas, but decades of Russian work is hard to fix quickly as General Winter starts to come in to view.
The Kremlin does not supply gas. It uses it as an opportunity to apply pressure on the recipient countries, to influence their foreign policy, and to determine their possible response to certain events. Given that gas, unlike oil, represents a small part of Russia’s budget revenues, Putin can experiment with the supply of gas as much as he wants — until he achieves the desired result. And we know all this very well from the Ukrainian experience.

Russian gas means corruption, underdevelopment, poverty, war, and death. The sooner we get rid of its supply, the fewer opportunities there will be for the bony, aged hand of the Kremlin ruler to squeeze Ukraine’s throat.
As fall comes, watch the weather. Watch the reports of access to and price of natural gas to free-Ukraine. Watch who in NATO helps, and who demurs.

Oh, and watch the money. Always watch the money.

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